City Commissioners voted to turn Dayton, Ohio, into an immigrant-friendly city, unanimously approving of a plan aimed at bolstering the city's shrinking immigrant population.
Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell read a statement on Wednesday during the city commission meeting to expand on the initiative, known as the Welcome Dayton program. In it, Leitzell explained that the plan focuses not on harboring illegal immigrants, but on treating all people kindly and humanely.
We understand there are problems with people entering the U.S. illegally. The Welcome Dayton plan leaves federal immigration law enforcement to the feds, and instead focuses on making our community one that treats all people kindly, fairly and humanely, Leitzell said.
Goal: To Reduce Barriers, Speed Immigrant-Own Business Development
According to a September 2011 Welcome Dayton report, the goals of the plan will include reducing the barriers for anyone -- specifically immigrants -- who want to open new businesses, and rejuvenating the community by investing in areas with immigrant-owned businesses that are willing to populate the city area.
In addition, the proposal also aims to make easier for immigrants to adjust to the community by making it easier for adults to receive ESL and literacy courses, actively involving local youth in community building and encouraging cross-cultural events among Dayton's cultural and arts organizations.
Some Dayton residents argued that the city should not embrace illegal immigrants, claiming they could overwhelm the local job market and social services programs. The Dayton Daily News reports that three University of Dayton sociology professors spoke in favor of the Welcome Dayton program. Professor Jamie Longazel reportedly cited a study he did in 2005 on an immigration crackdown in Hazleton, Pa., saying residents blamed immigrants for their town's decay even though the Latino migrants had actually been boosting the local economy.
Others, according to the source, insisted the new policy is an gesture that is representative of the roots of our nation.
One reason the American Dream is still alive is that people keep coming to us who believe in it, said University of Dayton professor Linda Majka. Dayton has the opportunity to get this right.
Dayton's decision is a far cry from laws that have been passed to deter the illegal immigrant population. Alabama, Arizona and Georgia have all passed tough immigration since 2010, while several other states have proposed similar legislation.